The Road to an Income Tax

By Rep David Hess

Years from now if the citizens of New Hampshire are seeing income taxes taken out of their paychecks, they will be able look back to the week of October 19, 2009 in “tax history” as the turning point—a time when the foundation for a broad based tax was laid.  House Ways & Means committee Chair Susan Almy, a Lebanon democrat who has long been a strong advocate for any tax, but especially an  income tax, has put together a legislative “summit”   that will convene this week to, “consider changes to the state’s tax laws.” 

Rep. Almy first tried to keep this gathering of legislators a secret to avoid having the voters learn that an income tax would be included on the agenda.  When the news of a “tax summit” was leaked to the media, Speaker Norelli told us not to fret because Gov. Lynch had pledged to veto an income tax.  That’s comforting. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t he the same governor who, after telling us that marriage should be between a man and a woman, turned around and signed the gay marriage bill into law? 

It is curious that one of the main speakers being brought to the table by Rep. Almy is Jeff McLynch, the Northeast Regional Director for the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy--an advocate for an income tax.  In fact, in March he appeared before the House Ways & Means committee to testify in support of a bill that would establish an income tax.  “I am here today to offer testimony on House Bill 642, which would improve New Hampshire’s tax system, both by generating additional revenue and by shifting greater responsibility for such revenue onto those state residents with a greater ability to pay,” he told the committee.

This “summit” should come as no surprise. Democrats actually been “laying the groundwork for an income tax” the moment they took control of the State House three years ago.  Rather than controlling spending and forcing the state to live within its means, they chose instead to create the first $10B budget based on over zealous revenue figures.  When the state’s income failed to meet their lofty projections to pay for their 25% increase in general fund spending over two budgets, they chose instead to create, or increase, more than 40 taxes and fees, and used more than $400 million in one-time money while downshifting millions of dollars to the local property tax payer.

In response to their fiscal missteps over the past three years, the Democrats’ answer is to hold a “tax summit” to try and find more sources of revenue to match their out-of-control spending.  In fact, it was House Democratic Majority Leader Dan Eaton of Stoddard who best explained the Democrats’ position on the floor of the House last session when he told his colleagues “…it makes sense to know how much you’re spending before you decide how much money to raise.”

The beloved poet Robert Frost, in his poem The Road Not Taken, urged us all to ignore the “safe,” risk-free options and to make choices that offer greater risk and greater rewards.  The State of New Hampshire has reached that fork in the road.  The question remains, do we take the easy way out and follow other states by enacting broad based taxes to cover the over-spending, or do we continue to take the road less traveled and strive to become more fiscally responsible with our spending?  The Democrats have spent the state into a huge deficit and now they are asking us to “study” an income tax.  Hopefully the voters of this state are paying attention.